The Capitals’ penalty kill unit has allowed a goal in four of the first five games this season, including one in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center.
As with every statistic this time of year, it comes with the following disclaimer: it’s a small sample size. That said, the Caps know that the unit can—and should—be better, particularly after it ranked second in the NHL last year.
“We’ve got some new people there,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “But we’ve also have a lot of the same people.”
Washington’s penalty kill percentage currently sits at 71.4 as the team prepares to depart on a four-game trip to Western Canada. Last year, the unit’s percentage was 85.2. Only Anaheim’s penalty kill was better.
“It’s a mentality,” Trotz said. “Once you start digging yourself a little bit of a hole, you get worried about it. We just need a little confidence going for it. It’s not that we don’t have any, but we just have to get everybody on the same page. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be.”
Since snuffing out all three of the Avalanche’s power play opportunities two games ago, the Panthers and Rangers each struck once. And both times, the goals were big ones.
On Thursday night in South Florida, Jaromir Jagr scored on the man advantage late in the second period to even the score 2-2. The Panthers squeezed off six shots on four power plays in that game.
On Saturday, Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey tallied midway through the second period to knot the score 2-2. New York got off four shots on three opportunities in the contest.
“I think the first two games, [the goals] were just kind of [deflections],” said defenseman Karl
Alzner, who is averaging almost two minutes of shorthanded ice time per game. “Even today was a little bit of a pinball out to the backdoor.”
Alzner added: “We just have to see what other teams are doing and continue to get in lanes and block shots. And when we make our switches and stuff like that, it seems like we’re at times a little bit slow to do it. We want to pressure, but we have pressure smart. And if we’re not [in sync], it happens to any penalty kill. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks right now on paper, but, yeah, we’d like to be better.”
Newcomer Lars Eller said he isn’t overly concerned yet, in part, because he feels opposing power plays have benefited from some fortuitous bounces and those bounces will even out over time.
“You can always improve,” Eller said. “I don’t think it’s the reason we lost [to New York]. A wrist shot from way out on the flank that bounces right to a Rangers’ player. Sometimes it bounces to one of us. Sometimes it bounces to one of them. Things are out of your hands a little bit sometimes. But there’s room for improvement.”
MORE CAPITALS: Rangers hand Caps first regulation loss
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Perry Hills threw a pair of touchdown passes in his return to the lineup and Maryland kept Michigan State winless in the Big Ten with 28-17 victory Saturday night.
Maryland (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten) also extended the Spartans' losing streak to five games, the longest skid under 10-year coach Mark Dantonio.
Ty Johnson led Maryland's dominant running attack with 115 yards on nine carries, while Lorenzo Harrison finished with 105 yards on 17 carries. The Terrapins amassed 447 total yards .
Michigan State redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke got his second consecutive start and went 11 for 24 with 156 yards with an interception. He also ran for 79 yards on 10 carries. LJ Scott had a big day on the ground for the Spartans finishing with 128 yards and a touchdown.
The Spartans (2-5, 0-4) took their first lead, 17-14 on a 34-yard field goal by Michael Geiger with 1:35 left in the third quarter. Johnson continued to find a holes and a 44-yard run put Maryland into Michigan State territory. Two plays later, the Terrapins retook the lead on a 2-yard run by Kenneth Goins Jr.
Hills put the game away with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Levern Jacobs with 3:23 left in the game. Hills was 21 of 27 for 200 yards.
Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough was ejected with 4:39 left in the first quarter for targeting. That penalty helped Maryland extend a season-long 96-yard scoring drive, capped by Harrison's 8-yard run.
Michigan State: The Spartans face an uphill battle for a 10th straight bowl appearance with the toughest part of the their schedule still ahead. Michigan State must still play No. 3 Michigan next week and No. 2 Ohio State (Nov. 19).
Maryland: After a 4-0 start, the Terrapins gained some much-needed momentum to avoid missing a bowl game for the second consecutive season. However, Maryland plays three ranked opponents (Michigan, Ohio State and No. 8 Nebraska) over its final five games.
Michigan State hosts No. 3 Michigan (7-0, 4-0) next Saturday. The Spartans stunned Michigan 27-23 last season when safety Jalen Watts-Jackson picked up a flubbed punt and ran 38 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the final play of the game.
Maryland travels to Indiana on Saturday. The Hoosiers (3-4, 1-3) beat the Terrapins 47-28 last season and lead the all-time series 3-1.